The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

720 Josie Harry Bar

The Josie Harry Steamboat sank in 1878 and created a sandbar island that has now been assumed by the Tennessee/Mississippi shore LBD.  If you are in the main channel through this area you will have a long uninterrupted stretch of rip rap and revetment to paddle through.  Steel yourself and choose a rhythm you can keep up for the duress.  On a calm day you can enjoy the steady flow and long lines of trees.  On windy days there is no choice but paddle hard.  Upstream tows tend to hug the right bank bottom end of the Dismal Point/Ensley Bar islands while downstreamers tend to go wide and look for the faster waters around the outside of the bend.  As always be vigilant: tow pilots are as unpredictable as black bears.  Near mile 719 a blue hole has been carved over the rip rap on the left bank by previous high waters.  Good swim hole at medium water levels (between 15 and 25 on the Memphis Gauge).  As the river approaches flood stage you can paddle over this area and go behind the highest wooded part of Cow Island which seems to have become part of the Tennessee shoreline.  Watch out for snags and strainers and be ready for possible bushwhacking and channel finding along the way!


718-713 Cow Island Bend

The Mississippi River makes a hairpin turn around Cow Island No. 48, running into the Cow Island Bend due west and turned around to exit below Cow Island in a southeasterly direction.  Blue Holes form around the dikes top end at low water levels, and an ocean-sized inlet forms during low water at bottom end.  Possible camping around LBD 715 during low water levels below 15 Memphis Gauge, but wide open and exposed.  Bring your own firewood as it will be hit or miss whether any good wood has been strewn across its beaches or not from the last rise.  


Goodbye Tennessee, Hullo Mississippi:

The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta and the Blues

As you come around the bottom end of Cow Island you will leave the state Tennessee left bank descending and enter the State of Mississippi, through which the river flows 440 miles until succumbing to Louisiana near Angola.  Even though geographically you have already been paddling in the fertile Yazoo-Mississippi Delta (once you flowed under the Lower Bridges of Memphis and past the end of the South Bluff), you are now officially and geopolitically within the same.  Pull out your Mississippi Saxophone (harmonica) and play a blues in celebration!  Find the nearest crossroads and fall down on your knees for a midnight full moon encounter!  Best yet, see below for some live blues and fresh corn whiskey.


Said to begin in the lobby of Memphis’ Peabody Hotel and end at Catfish Row in Vicksburg (Cohen: Lanterns on the Levee), the eye-shaped “Upper” Delta is the largest self-contained floodplain flatland along the entire Lower Mississippi River, 250 miles north to south, and 60 miles at its widest.  It’s also the most famous floodplain, and the most feared.  It’s the birthplace of the blues, and also of the share-cropping system.  Mississippi Delta cotton kingdom plantations ushered in the meteoric rise of some world-class musicians alongside the international textile industry.  Some did so benevolently, leading to great advances in agriculture and industry, and arguably the birth of the blues and some great literature along the way.  Still others harbored the evils of subjection, and successfully avoided the Civil Rights Era into present day as highlighted by the infamous Parchman Penitentiary.

Leave A Comment

Middle Mississippi & Bluegrass Hills / Bootheel 195-0, 954-850 ST. LOUIS TO CARUTHERSVILLE
Chickasaw Bluffs 850 – 737 CARUTHERSVILLE TO MEMPHIS
Upper Delta 737 – 663 MEMPHIS TO HELENA
Memphis to Tunica
736 LBD Memphis, Tennessee, Mud Island Harbor
Buoys and Docks  
Floating Underneath a Bridge  
734.7 Lower Bridges/Engineer’s Bar
734.7 The Frisco Bridge
734.7 The Harahan Bridge
734.7 The Ghost Bunker
734.7 The Old Bridge (Memphis & Arkansas Bridge)
733 President’s Island
Fleeted Barges  
732 LBD Hole in the Wall ##2
727.3 TVA Transmission Lines
727.3 RBD The Wreck of the Raft
Tennessee Valley Authority  
725.5 LBD Entrance to McKellar Lake
7 Miles Up harbor Riverside Park Marina On McKellar Lake  
724 T.E. Maxon Wastewater Treatement Facility
Paddler’s Routes Below Memphis  
727 – 712 Dismal Point/Ensley Bar/Cow Island Bend Area
726 – 717 Armstrong/Dismal Point/Ensley Bar
720 Josie Harry Bar
718 – 713 Cow Island Bend
Goodbye Tennessee, Hullo Mississippi  
The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta and the Blues  
711 – 705 Cat Island No.50
710.8 LBD Starr Landing
712 – 695 Paddler’s Routes Around Cat Island and the Casinos
Pickett Dikes Back Channel  
639.8 RBD Tunica Riverpark Museum Boat Ramp
Tunica Riverpark Museum  
Basket Bar Dikes/Porter lake Dikes  
693.8 RBD Lost Lake Pass
703 Buck Island (No. 53)
701 Gold Strike Casino
700 Fitzgerald’s Casino
Tunica to Helena
700 Basket Bar
Paddler’s Routes Through Commerce and Mhoon Bends  
695 – 690 Commerce Bend
692.5 RBD Peter’s Boat Ramp
690 Rabbit Island
Switching to thhe Helena Gage  
Dikes and Water Levels  
687.5 Mhoon Landing
689 – 685 Mhoon Bar
690 – 683 Mhoon Bend
682 – 679 Whiskey Chute/Walnut Bend
680 Whitehall Crevasse
Paddler’s Routes Below Walnut Bend  
Stumpy Island, Shoo Fly Bar and Tunica Lake  
Main Channel  
677.4 LBD Tunica Runout
Behind Shoo Fly Bar  
Stumpy Island  
Walnut Bend Boat Ramp  
Tunica Lake Boat Ramp  
679 RBD Walnut Bend Boat Ramp
679 – 677 Hardin Cut-Off
677.4 LBD Pass Into Tunica Lake
677 – 676 Shoo Fly Bar
677 – 674 Stumpy Island
674.5 Harbert Point
672 RBD Mouth of the St. Francis River
Primitive Landing at the Mouth of the St. Francis Rive – Conditions  
RBD 3 Miles up St. Francis River Three Mile Ramp
Daytrip: St. Francis to Helena  
St. Francis to Helena: Paddler’s Descriptions  
For Intermedite Paddlers: Right Bank Route  
For Expert Paddlers: Left Bank Route  
St. Francis River  
671 – 673 LBD St. Francis Bar
669 LBD Flower Lake Dikes
668 RBD (A View of) Crowley’s Ridge D
668-663 RBD Buck Island (Prairie Point Towhead)
668-663 RBD Buck Island (Prairie Point Towhead)
665.5 LBD Trotter’s Pass
663 RBD Helena Harbor
Helena Boat Ramps  
663 RBD Helena-West Helena
Quapaw Canoe Company – Helena Outpost  
Helena’s “Low Road” Into St. Francis National Forest  
King Biscuit Blues Festival (2nd Week of October)  
Helena to Friars
661.6 Helena Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge – US HWY 49)
663 RBD Leaving Helena Harbor
Fleeted Barges  
Small Towns in Harbors  
Buoys and Other Stationary Objects  
Highlights of Civilization  
Pollution Within the Helena Industrial Reach  
661.6 Helena Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge – US HWY 49)
657 LBD  
How to Get Into the Old Entrance of the Yazoo Pass  
LBD: Alternate Route to Vicksburg: Yazoo Pass  
Yazoo Pass Milage  
Rivers & Robert Johnson  
656 LBD East Montezuma Bar
657 – 654 RBD Montezuma Towhead
654.7 LBD Montezuma Landing
Shuttle Route Montezuma to Clarksdale  
652 LBD Friars Point
652.2 LBD Friars Point Landing (Unimproved)
What’s to Come Further Downstream  
Middle Delta 663 – 537 HELENA TO GREENVILLE
Loess Bluffs 437 – 225 VICKSBURG TO BATON ROUGE
Atchafalaya River 159 – 0 SIMMESPORT TO MORGAN CITY
Louisiana Delta 229 – 10 BATON ROUGE TO VENICE
Birdsfoot Delta 10 – 0 VENICE TO GULF OF MEXICO